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Teaching starts in the home says Anne Diamond - February 2015 column

PUBLISHED: 10:09 20 February 2015 | UPDATED: 10:09 20 February 2015

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Getty Images/iStockphoto

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Listen up parents, and grandparents, Anne says you can make a difference by stepping up to the mark

A new scheme has just launched in our patch to narrow the gap between kids who do well at school and those who don’t. And for once, instead of heaping more work on teachers and responsibility on schools, it’s being brave enough to turn to the parents and families and show them that they’re the key.

I say brave enough, because it seems to me that every time we as a society identify a problem in youngsters - anything from drugs, alcohol, obesity, anti-social behaviour, truancy, weapon-carrying and bullying - we look to school to sort it out. We demand more from school, more after school clubs, more special programmes and ever more responsibility. It often feels like we’re too cowardly, or perhaps too negative in our expectations, to look back into a child’s background and expect more from mum and dad.

Well, now GapEducation, based in Reading but reaching out all over the UK, is turning back towards a kid’s own front door, reaching into the family to see if that can make a difference to how well a youngster does at school. Because all of their research so far shows that, above and beyond a background of whatever race, poverty or wealth, single parenting or dual parenting, it’s the attitude at home that determines most how a child will fare at school work. In other words, if a mum or dad believes that education is important, that doing well at school is something to be proud of, and if expectations are high, that’s what counts - more than almost any other single thing.

So here’s a scheme that’ll send specially trained teachers and volunteers beyond the front door to see how they can influence mum, dad, grannies and granddads and even siblings to WANT to do well at school. No finger pointing, no blaming, just enthusing and enabling. I think it’s a brilliant idea and I warmly welcome a sort of sea-change where at last we can evolve into (get back to?) a society that expects more from parents.

After all, if you’re going to have kids, you should step up to the mark. We should not expect schools to do all the dirty work, take all of the responsibility. For heaven’s sakes, many primary schools are complaining that their rising fives arrive unable to use knives and forks, go to the loo independently or even have the first idea of ABC or numbers. Schools should not have to pick up the slack for this slovenly state of affairs - it’s a parent’s job and it’s one they should be proud to do, and ashamed if they’re not.

Anne’s watching you…

I’m going to send off for a glow in the dark ‘poo’ poster. The posters are the latest idea from Keep Britain Tidy, and they feature a huge pair of Big Brother-like human eyes (they recharge naturally during the day and glow in the dark at night) with the slogan ‘Thoughtless dog owners - we’re watching you!’ Because I’m fed up with the people who, under the cover of winter darkness, do NOT clear up after their dogs - particularly round and about my house. It happens to be near a shop, and people tie their dogs up to the railings whilst they’re inside the shop, and let their dogs foul accordingly.

It’s disgusting. This behaviour intensifies during the winter months, according to Keep Britain Tidy, but the illuminated posters reduce the problem by 46 per cent. I’ll keep you posted!

Clean sheets, please

Do you give your house guests brand new sheets every time they come to stay?

I heard this amazing debate on the radio the other day - and even ‘How Clean Is Your House’ TV star Aggie MacKenzie thought it was fine to give a house guest second hand sheets (that someone else has slept in before, without washing anew). The only exception, all commentators agreed, was if the sheets had been slept in by a teenage boy. Everyone seemed to accept that young males were just a little too… er… smelly. I was astounded. I would always, always give every new houseguest (even my own sons) newly cleaned sheets. I had no idea the practice of second-hand sheets was so common.

From now on, whenever I go to stay anywhere, I’m taking a sleeping bag with me. Or, to encourage your hosts to do (what I consider is) the RIGHT thing, after you’ve stayed the night, pull off all the sheets, pillowcases and duvet cover and bung them in the bath - so they have to wash ‘em!!

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